Halloween: The 3rd Marquess of Bute & the Paranormal

28 October 2017

The 3rd Marquess of Bute was fascinated by the paranormal, as we’ve seen in our previous post about his forays in to ghost hunting, and he kept up a correspondence with many other people interested in the subject. Arthur Mitchell was a doctor and Deputy Commissioner of Lunacy for the General Board of Lunacy for Scotland focusing on improving the care of mentally ill people. His correspondence with the 3rd Marquess was focused on their mutual interest in ghosts and the paranormal and we have many letters from Mitchell to Bute in the archive at Mount Stuart.

Arthur Mitchell to Lord Bute re. ghost

This particularly charming letter was written to Lord Bute in 1895, wherein Mitchell asks, in a very roundabout and Victorian way, if the ghost the Marquess saw was actually a dream:

Dear Lord Bute

Your last two very interesting letters are still unanswered. I have read them often, & have to thank you much for having written them. They are full of suggestiveness.

You are inclined to the opinion – if not more than merely inclined to it – that the man you saw, call him apparition, or ghost, or anything else, was not imaged on your retina, but was, what I may call, a subjective vision, that is, was seen by your brain but not through the eye. I venture now to ask this question: – can you have been for a few seconds in the condition which we call sleep, & did he appear to you as a man appears in a dream? In other words, were you for a moment asleep and dreaming? I shall be much obliged by you thinking over this question before answering it, because your answer, whatever it is will be useful to me, as I am working at the subject, & am going to employ the lessons I now have in writing on it; if I can reach what seem to be well supported conclusions. I have been reading widely, I have not confined myself to recent books.

Perhaps, if you will allow me I may have another question to ask, when I have seen your answer to that which I now ask.

I cannot join the Psychical Society without breaking a resolution formed some years ago to join no more new societies. In view of my age I am already a member of too many. I am wonderfully well in body & mind but I do occasionally complain of the disease which a dear old friend called anno domini. It is very good of you to suggest my joining the Pyschicals, I know many & have every access to their records of their work.

With Much Respect, I Am,

Very Sincerely Yours,

Arthur Mitchell

Unfortunately, we don’t have the letters the 3rd Marquess sent to Arthur Mitchell so the conclusion of this particular ghost story will have to remain a mystery.